30th Nov 2023

Finland restricts Russian tourist visas

  • Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin says Finland alone cannot stop Russians from travelling to Europe (Photo:
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Finland is restricting the number of tourist visas for Russians, amid on-going pressure for other EU states to do the same.

On Tuesday (16 August), Helsinki's foreign ministry said it plans to accept only 100 Russian visa applications per month — down from around the current 1,000.

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The restrictions are set to start in September and aim to curtail the number of land-border crossings with Russia. Russians coming for family, work or study would be given priority.

Humanitarian exemptions for dissidents or journalists, for example, could also be made.

The move follows Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February, sparking indignation among some that wealthy Russians are still able to vacation with relative ease throughout the EU.

With European airspace shut to Russians, the plan also aims to prevent Russians from driving to Helsinki airport.

The Finnish capital's airport was being used as a gateway to other tourist destinations, following Russia's lifting of pandemic-related restrictions.

Finland's foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said Greece, Italy and Spain currently issue the most visas to Russians.

"If you want to further limit the flow of tourists, it would be good to agree on it together," he said, according to state Finnish outlet Yle.

Finland's prime minister Sanna Marin made similar statements, noting that Finland alone cannot prevent Russians from travelling to Europe.

The decision comes as Estonia also takes a hardline approach.

The Baltic state will this week close its border to more than 50,000 Russians with previously-issued visas.

It also started removing Soviet era monuments from public spaces across Estonia.

"Soviet monuments with historic value will be removed to the museum, not demolished," said Estonia's prime minister, Kaja Kallas.

Meanwhile, Estonia and Finland both want the EU to scrap a visa-facilitation agreement with Russia.

The agreement allows Russian citizens to travel throughout the passport-free Schengen area, comprising 22 EU states and four other European countries.

Lithuania also supports the visa ban, as does Latvia.

Latvia's president Egils Levits over the weekend said they should revoke resident permits and visas for those who support Russia's war.

He also said that Latvia has not issued any tourist visas to Russians since the Ukraine invasion.

The visa ban is set to be discussed at an EU foreign ministry meeting at the end of the month.

For its part, Germany has already voiced opposition to the idea.

"This is not the war of the Russian people. It is Putin's war and we have to be very clear on that topic," said German chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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